June 19, 2006

US vote triggers more trouble for Anglicans

By Paul Majendie

LONDON (Reuters) - Anglicans faced a new crisis on Monday
after the U.S. branch of the church elected a liberal female
leader who said she believed homosexuality was no sin and
homosexuals were created by God.

One English bishop warned that Anglicanism was in danger of
splitting into "two religions" after the election in the United
States of Katherine Jefferts Schori to lead the
2.3-million-strong U.S. episcopal church.

The election came after the consecration of openly gay
American bishop Gene Robinson and the blessing of same-sex
marriages in Canada three years ago, which have deepened
differences between liberals and conservatives among the
world's 77 million Anglicans.

"It will be a great adventure," Schori promised after her
election at the weekend -- but the already battered and bruised
Anglican community was not so sure.

"Having a woman primate is an exciting complication," said
Church Times Editor Paul Handley.

"The problem is her views. She is quite permissive toward
local churches giving blessing to same-sex couples and she
supported the ordination of Robinson," he told Reuters.

But he felt talk of a definitive split, although African
Anglicans are strongly opposed to homosexuality, was premature.

"The genius of Anglicanism is that it has been able to cope
with huge variations in doctrine and practice. Talk of schism
is exaggerated," he said.

But the Church of England Bishop of Rochester, Michael
Nazir-Ali, said the divisions were now so deep that compromise
was no longer possible.

"Nobody wants a split but if you think you have virtually
two religions in a single Church, something has got to give
sometime," he told The Daily Telegraph.


Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the
worldwide Anglican church, said Schori was taking up "a deeply
demanding position at a critical time."

"We are continuing to pray for the general convention of
the Episcopal Church as it confronts a series of exceptionally
difficult choices," Williams said in a statement after talking
to Schori by telephone earlier in the day.

In an interview with CNN, Schori said she did not believe
it was a sin to be homosexual.

"I believe that God creates us with different gifts," she
said. "Some people come into this world with affections ordered
toward other people of the same gender and some people come
into this world with affections directed at people of the other

The issue of a "stained glass ceiling" stopping women from
rising in the hierarchy ranks alongside the ordination of gay
clergy as one of the most disruptive in the Anglican Church.

Anglicans in Canada, the United States and New Zealand
already have women bishops.

Archbishop Williams won backing in February for the
ordination of women bishops in the Church of England but
theological and legal hurdles remain to be cleared.

Traditionalists argue that as Jesus Christ's apostles were
men, there is no precedent in the Bible for women bishops.

Reverend David Anderson, president of the American Anglican
Council, a conservative group that opposed Schori's nomination,
said her election made a schism more likely.

"We would expect the Episcopal Church will continue its
acceleration into outer space," he said in the United States.
"The fabric of the communion is being torn at its deepest
level. This will simply accelerate and continue the tearing."

(Additional reporting by Gideon Long)